What customers want customers get in pasta, steaks at Tulalip’s new Tula Bene restaurant (slide show)

TULALIP – Italian cuisine is now being served in the Tulalip Resort Casino.

We’re not talking about Blazing Paddles, although it is fairly new and serves quality pizza quickly right on the casino floor.

We’re talking about Tula Bene Pastaria + Chophouse, which has been open about a month.

Lisa Severn, director of food and beverage, said the resort casino talked with customers and set up focus groups to find out, “What they want.”

The facility already offers a large variety of eating options, but it lacked a steakhouse, they said.

Resort officials decided to remodel the upscale Tulalip Bay restaurant.

“Fine dining is tired, out of popularity,” Severn said, adding people don’t seem to like three-hour sit-down dinners anymore.

Executive Chef Perry Mascitti added, “Great food is important to the chef, but it’s more important that they leave here after having a good time.”

While Tulalip Bay was blocked out from the casino, the new restaurant opens up to it.

“It’s more approachable,” Mascitti said of the new restaurant. ““It’s a gathering feeling.” Once inside, customers are encouraged to share appetizers and side dishes to try different things.

“Wake up the taste buds,” Severn said of the Italian-inspired family styled plates.

The restaurant uses all fresh food, including the pasta made daily. Much of the food, such as produce, comes from local farms.

“We buy local faire as much as possible,” Mascitti said.

Tula Bene seats 88, so reservations are advised, especially on weekends. Dinner and bar service is offered Thursday and Sunday from 5-10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5-11 p.m.

The resort casino would like it to be open more, but they’ve had problems getting enough professional staff to fill the gaps.

“It’s an industry-wide problem as a whole,” Severn said. “

Chef Jeremy Taisey, who was also at Tulalip Bay, said he is excited about the new restaurant, and he’s been able to keep most of his staff.

Severn said Taisey had a lot of say in the makeover of the eatery.

“He’s made it his own, has taken ownership of it, and that helps keep him creative,” she said. “All of our culinary team are extremely creative.”

Taisey said his team preps food for five hours each day. That fits with their motto: “We don’t do easy. We make easy happen through hard work and learning.”

Menu highlights

•Appetizers include the Salumi Antipasti Platter, Pancetta Wrapped Prawns and the Hand-Stretched Pizzetta made with local cheese and garlic oil. •Entrée highlights feature six prime and upper choice Double R Ranch steaks, House-made D’Angelo Sausages, Prosciutto Wrapped Halibut, and the Half-Roasted Chicken with melted leeks and cremini mushrooms. •Daily fresh-made pasta includes the signature interactive table side prepared Cacio e Pepe, which is a traditional chitarra pasta tossed with pecorino cheese and black pepper, Ricotta Gnocchi with preserved lemon, Tagliatelle with smoked oysters or the Lobster Ravioli served with sous vide lobster medallions. •Pastry Chef Nikol Nakamura’s kitchen includes her Budino with white chocolate, Sweet Pecorino Cake with candied tomatoes, olive oil gelato, candied basel, and pecorino frico, or her Flourless Chocolate Torte with blood orange segments.

•For reservations or details call 360-716-1500.

Lots more

Severn said the resort casino has something for everyone when it comes to food. She said there are some great Asian chefs as Journey East. There of course is the Eagles Buffet but also The Draft sports bar, which is another facility customers asked for. Cedars Cafe is by the hotel, open 24 hours, and the Blackfish Grill focuses on seafood. “Each outlet has its own individual wine program,” Sommelier Tom Thompson said.

Cedars Cafe features Northwest wines, for as little at $8 a glass. Napa Valley, CA wines are served on the gaming floor, and Blackfish has Northwest wines sold mainly by the bottle. Thompson said throughout the resort casino there are 1,000 bottles of wine for sale, and 60 percent of it is from Washington state.

But Thompson seems to be most-proud of the offerings at the new Tula Bene. Even the house wines are made by “the Cadillac of wine makers.” There are four white and four red house wines that come in kegs. There are 13 Italian wines that are “food friendly and go with every single dish,” Thompson said, adding servers are well-schooled at giving recommendations.

Thompson also has an area with 40 international wines by the glass. He loves sharing the history of some of them.

Fuentes, from the Canary Islands, is one he is “nerding out on,” he said. The grapes come from seven locations on a volcanic landscape. Garzon is fun and fruity and comes from Uruguay. There is also a cabernet-esque Vranac from Montenegro and a wine from an 1800s vineyard in Macedonia “that’s survived all the chaos there.” “We want to offer a cool wine experience; something you’ve never had before,” Thompson said.

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